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Integral to Durga Puja rituals, lotus hit by scanty rain

Rush to import flowers from Bihar and Bangalore as production halves
A farmer plucks a lotus from a pond in  East Burdwan district’s Kalna last week.
A farmer plucks a lotus from a pond in East Burdwan district’s Kalna last week.
Dip Das

Snehamoy Chakraborty   |   Calcutta   |   Published 03.10.22, 12:37 AM

Production of the lotus, a flower integral to Durga Puja rituals, witnessed a steep drop this year owing to scanty monsoon, ironic amid a Puja marked by rain.

Rural farmers cultivating the lotus said they could produce only half of their usual yield this year as most ponds dried up owing to scanty rain.

Lotus is cultivated by thousands of farmers across the south Bengal districts of Birbhum, East Burdwan, Murshidabad and Hooghly, with September-October being the harvest period.

“We saw a dip in production this year and the reason is rainfall deficit. After we sowed the seeds of the flowers, many of the ponds in our area dried up and hampered the production. We usually produce and sell around 90 lakh pieces of lotus every year whereas this year it is not more than 40 lakh,” said Dhruba Malakar, a farmer from Birbhum’s Labhpur.

According to the weather department, many South Bengal districts including Birbhum faced scanty rainfall this monsoon that also hampered paddy, the prime crop in the state. Birbhum, Hooghly, Bankura, Murshidabad and East Burdwan faced severe rain deficit this year of 20 to 40 per cent compared to previous years.

“For lotus cultivation, ponds should be full. Rain also helps in the blooming of the flower. Dry ponds damaged the lotus crop,” said a horticulture department official.

Farmers said that after 2020, which saw the lockdown after the outbreak of Covid-19, 2022 proved to be another bad year for them.

“In 2020, we could not sell our produce when lockdown halted transport. This year, lack of rain created a similar disaster,” said Jayanta Das, a lotus producer from East Burdwan’s Kalna.

Lotus traders said that as Bengal’s produce was insufficient this year, they procured flowers from Bihar and Bangalore, leading to a hike in prices.

“Owing to lack of production in our state, we contacted florists in Bihar and Bangalore. Hence, the price of lotus has jumped two or three times,” said Babu Birbangshi, a trader from Birbhum, adding a lotus costs Rs 12-Rs 15 a piece Puja organisers said the lotus is an integral part of Durga Puja rituals. A source said 108 lotuses are needed for the Sandhi Puja alone.

“This year, we had to increase the budget for lotus as it is at least four times higher than earlier years. However, we had to manage the cost as lotus is integral to Durga Puja worship," said Subrata Bhakat, a Puja organiser in Bolpur.

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